Homily for the 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B

Readings: Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24; 2 Cor 8:7,9,13-15; Mk 5:21-43

Theme:   The Healing Power of Jesus

Today’s gospel reading from Mark reports two miracles performed by Jesus upon his return to the Jewish part of Galilee from the land of the Gerasenes. The first is the raising to life of the daughter of Jairus.  The second is the healing of a woman with a haemorrhage she had endured for twelve years.  In each case, the miracle performed by Jesus is in response to a courageous act of faith. Jairus, we are told, is a synagogue official, and therefore a man of considerable standing within the Jewish community. Clearly distraught by his daughter’s worsening illness, he approaches Jesus, goes down on his knees and earnestly pleads with him to lay his hands on her and heal her. ‘My little daughter is desperately sick. Do come and lay your hands on her to make her better and save her life’ (Mk 5:23). We can only imagine the courage and humility it took for this ‘important man’ to swallow his pride, abandon his dignity, and kneel at the feet of Jesus.

As Jesus accompanies Jairus to his house, followed by a large crowd, we are told that a woman with a twelve-years’ bleeding complaint approaches Jesus timidly. In the eyes of her contemporaries, her condition would have made her legally ‘unclean’. At the slightest suspicion that she was suffering from a haemorrhage, the people accompanying Jesus would, most likely, have driven her away for exposing them to defilement. Understandably, then, she approaches Jesus furtively from behind. She touches his cloak and is immediately cured. In response, Jesus turns and asks who touched him. The woman could have remained anonymous; yet, in response to Jesus’ question, she steps forward and acknowledges what she has done. She comes clean ‘with the whole truth’ of her ‘shame-inducing’ condition. And Jesus responds by acknowledging her faith and sending her away with words that must have sounded like music to her ears: ‘My daughter, your faith has restored you to health: go in peace and be free from your complaint’ (Mk 5:34). By addressing her as ‘Daughter’ Jesus is ending her sense of isolation and including her in the family of God’s beloved sons and daughters.

At this point, we can imagine Jairus’ mounting anxiety. His daughter is seriously ill and may be dying, and now Jesus’ arrival is being delayed. As if to heighten the tension Mark tells us that messengers suddenly arrive from the house of Jairus and confirm his worst fear: his daughter is dead. No point in troubling Jesus any longer!  Jesus ignores their message and reassures Jairus with words that echo the message of last Sunday’s gospel: ‘Do not be afraid; only have faith’ (Mk 5: 37). When Jesus, Jairus, and the crowd following them arrive at the house of Jairus, they find family and friends mourning the dead girl. But Jesus enters the room where she is laid out, takes her by the hand, and instructs her, in Aramaic, to arise: ‘Talitha, kum’.  Jairus’ faith in Jesus has not been in vain. His daughter is restored to life. And Jesus is revealed not only as having power over nature but also over death, reversing the work of the devil, as the first reading from Wisdom indicates (Wisdom 2:23-24).

These two overlapping miracle stories contain a number of striking contrasts and one very important common element. The main character in one story is a man, Jairus; in the other, it is a woman. One is a public official, an important person in the community. The other is a woman who has spent all here money and was probably reduced to penury in seeking a cure for an ailment that had isolated her from the community. One approaches Jesus publicly. The other approaches him secretly. Yet, in both cases, their distress leads them to seek out Jesus their faith   brings about his miraculous response.

In a world where sickness and loss are ever present realities, the miracle stories in today’s gospel remind us of the Lord’s healing power.  The faith of Jairus and of the woman with the haemorrhage invites us to reflect on our own faith in Jesus and take steps to nurture and develop it, confident that Jesus’ response will be gentle, loving and healing. We are also called to be instruments in bringing the healing power of Jesus to the sick and wounded people all around us, by simple gestures of love and compassion. We can provide a listening ear for a troubled heart, make time to reach out to a lonely neighbour, or visit a friend in hospital, and pray with them as well as for them. I conclude with a prayerful reflection, entitled ‘The Power to Heal’ from the pen of Flor McCarthy SDB:

Each of us is capable of doing some healing,
because we have eyes that can see,
ars that can hear,
tongues that can speak,
hands that can touch,
and above all a heart that can love.
Lord, make us instruments of your healing power,
where there is hatred, let me sow love,
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.


Click on the play button below to listen to an alternative homily from Fr Tom Casey SMA.

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